Quitting Smoking for Cancer Survivors

From the DFCI/NCCN Cancer Survivorship Information™

Many cancer survivors who smoke don't know that their habit puts them at risk for getting cancer again. This could be a return of their first cancer, or a totally new cancer.

In fact, many people don't realize that smoking causes cancer in places besides the lungs. Cigarettes cause cancer of the mouth, voice box, esophagus, bladder, kidney, pancreas, cervix, and stomach. They also cause some types of leukemia. Survivors who smoke increase their risk of these cancers even more than the average person.

The truth is that about half of all smokers who keep smoking will end up dying from a smoking-related disease. In the late 1990s, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at information about adult male and female smokers. They learned that men lost about 13.2 years of life, and women lost 14.5 years of life – all because of smoking.

As a survivor, you know what it means to stay strong. You can take control of your smoking and your health. No matter how old you are or how long you've smoked, quitting will help you live longer and healthier.

Two Types of Dependence

Many people who smoke depend on cigarettes physically and mentally. The physical dependence comes from the body feeling the need for nicotine, and having withdrawal symptoms when the nicotine is taken away. The mental dependence comes from habits and emotions – smoking on a work break or lighting up when things are boring or stressful, for example.

We know from research studies that smokers need to deal with bothtypes of dependence to quit smoking and stay quit. Luckily, there are ways to manage each of them.

Reaching Out for Help to Quit Smoking

Most states have a free phone program to help people deal with mental dependence on cigarettes. People who use phone counseling quit smoking at twice the rate of those who don't!

The American Cancer Society's Quitline® program lets callers reach out to trained quit-smoking counselors. The counselors help plan a quitting method that is special for each person and is based on his or her smoking. With help from a counselor, smokers can avoid common mistakes that can get in the way of their quitting.

Phone counseling is often more convenient than other kinds of support programs. It's totally free. You don't need transportation or childcare. You can talk to a counselor at night and on the weekends. Counselors help in many different ways. They may suggest things like medicines, local classes, self-help brochures, or a network of family and friends. Find a Quitline® program in your area by calling the American Cancer Society
at 1-800-ACS-2345 (227-2345).

You can also check with your employer, health insurance company, or local hospital to find support groups. Your local American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, or local health department may sponsor quit-smoking classes. Call 1-800-ACS-2345 for more information.

Quit-Smoking Medication

Nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) deals with the physical dependence on nicotine. It works by giving your body smaller and smaller amounts of the drug until you no longer need it. Patches and gum are two common types of NRT.

NRT helps many smokers quit, but it should not be used on its own. You should use it along with a Quitline program, a support group, or quit-smoking classes. These programs help you deal with the mental or emotional aspects of smoking. As you do this, the medication helps your body learn to work without nicotine. In fact, studies show that combining NRT with a quit-smoking program makes it twice as likely that you'll quit.

Although many smokers can quit smoking without NRT, most people who try to quit can't do it on the first try. In fact, smokers may need to try many times -- as many as 8 to 10 -- before they are able to quit for good. Don't give up!

Resources for Quitting Smoking

For help, information, and support with quitting smoking, contact: